May I go out on a limb and declare The Forty Year Old Virgin to be among the most influential film of this decade? I believe I shall do so. In 2005, The Forty Year Old Virgin virtually revolutionized comedy. It took away the traditional (up to that time) approach of using every single bodily function imaginable and trying their hardest to making us laugh.
The Forty Year Old Virgin changed all of that. It returned to the more Woody Allen approach of comedy. Life itself is funny enough without using body functiosn to drive the point home. It was a sweet, tender comedy that actually illicited laughs from people. Since that time, we have had a whole slew of imitators and others in teh same genre, from Superbad to Pineapple Express to Forgetting Sarah Marshall.
Now, we have I Love You Man, the latest in a series of light, tender R rated comedies that play off of real examples. In this case, real estate agent Peter Klaven is getting married but has no best man. He attempts to go on a variety of “man dates” before he encounters Sydney Fife (Jason Segel) whom he immediately hits it off with. They see each other and attempt to solve each others difficulties all while Peter frets about his upcoming marriage.
This is a funny movie. The evolution of Peter Klaven is particularly hysterical. He goes from the typical corporate stuck up to a looser, freer man who believes he is the best at Rastarfarian impersonations. Jason Segel…rather remains the same throughout the film. But it works. As a foil to Klaven, he is perfect. He lives out every single fantasy, focuses on every single thing Klaven only wish he could do with his life. He is never seen working or really doing anything but living for the moment.
The rest of the cast works wonders. It plays sort of like a who’s who of modern television, with people from many conceivable sitcoms accounted for. Klaven’s fiance acts exactly as she should…just like Klaven. She also actually displays some chemistry with Paul Rudd. And the rest…well, see for yourself. There are some great one liners here.
How does this compare to the other films like it? Well, so far, there has yet to be a bad one of these. Even the sometimes slow Pineapple Express still was among the funniest films of last year. And I Love You Man definitely falls into that category. I cannot think of another more exciting comedy coming out this year (except maybe Funny People.)
So (and I want to emphasize this) it’s funny. So, as a simple comedy movie, it succeeds. But is that enough? After all, Knocked Up accomplished that and so much more, adding a depth not really seen since The Graduate (or at least, what The Graduate would have been if it were inhabited by smarter characters). I Love You Man doesn’t really do this. It starts small but never gets any bigger. Sure, there is a pay off (a great one, to be sure) but at some time point, I almost wanted it to be far grander in the way Knocked Up was.
I would like to point what I mean. At one point, during the rehearsal dinner, Sydney creates an impromptu toast that ends him him requesting Peter’s fiance to give Peter oral sex. It is funny, it gets a laugh, and later shows up to reveal insecurities about the marriage. However, such a piece also exists to build up a major plot point. Does it succeed?
No, not really. It exists to keep the plot going and get a laugh. It does both of these things very, very well. But what of it? So much of Knocked Up’s depth came from taking something like that and going further with the material. There is actual conflict in this. True, this does start a conflict, but the film ends long before the conflict has been built up. Maybe the movie could have used another ten minutes in the third act.
I have one more to add: There’s Something About Mary. All throughout I Love you Man, that Farrelly Brothers comedy kept creeping back into my head. Both are success at being comedies, but not successful at conveying depth. The audience pretty much know how the story will end, really, when the trailers finish. But so what? They will still go to see it and leave highly entertained
The same method applies here. Just see it for yourself. Everyone will leave laughing, quoting their favorite lines. Sometimes, I suppose, that is enough